Annie was born in 1879, the fifth of 12 children, including Jane, Caroline, Nell and Jessie, who went on to become suffragettes. From the age of ten, Annie worked in an Oldham mill, where she injured herself and lost a finger. Her younger sister Jessie followed her to the mill at the age of 13, attending evening classes to learn how to type. The Kenney sibllings were active in their community, teaching Sunday School classes and helping out in any way they could. Annie and Jessie were lovers of literature and the written word and they remained connected to it for the rest of their lives.
In her autobiography, Memories of a Militant (1924) Annie recalled her response to leaving school for the mill at the age of 13. "My education was finished, my school knowledge was nil. [. . .] The only thing I liked was poetry. [. . .] I then joined the great masses whose lives were spent spinning and weaving cotton" (p. 18).
Despite working almost 12 hours a day at the mill, Annie, encouraged by her mother, developed a love of literature, including Walt Whitman, and a notebook in the archive records youthful efforts at story and poetry writing.
Annie remembered her early childhood and happy family life fondly. “I can still see our home with its bright, roaring rosy fire, and all the children, including myself, sitting on the window-sill watching the lights of the cotton factory, a few miles away, gradually going out." (p. 3).